You Can Be More

It happens with virtually every company we work with. As we go through the discovery process and we learn about our clients, we begin to see the truth unfold. The truth about what could be.

Naturally this is very inspirational to us, and it’s one of the major reasons anyone in our industry does what they do (or at least it should be).

That said, the tragic part of this story is that it often doesn’t have the happy ending we dream of. Most often, we end up having higher aspirations for our clients and are more passionate about what they can be/should be than they are. To me, that is so sad. Afterall, it’s not our company.

You can be more than just a government.
You can be more than just a law firm.
You can be more than just a home builder.
You can be more than just a health care product provider.

You can aspire to love making people healthy more than just providing health care products for them.

One of the major driving forces behind Urban Jungle is to push our clients to find meaning in themselves. Doing so will allow their customers to find meaning in the company and it’s relevance to their lives.

You can be more. Or not. The choice is yours.

8 Reasons Why You’re Going to Smoke Your Competition (Redux)

This is an article I posted back in 2009. Rescued from the archives, it is just as relevant today as it’s ever been.

1. Your vision is crystal clear.

Your corporate vision and mission inspire everyone. Your employees know why the company exists, where the company is going, and what it is trying to achieve in the future.

2. Your leaders have mad leadership skills. (and chicks dig skills)

You embrace change. You have a “let’s get it done” mentality tempered with reason, knowing when to hold back and when to move forward. You have entrepreneurial spirit and your leadership style is perfect – neither too directive nor too hands-off. You lead and you manage change. You don’t administrate or micromanage. You create leaders instead of followers.

3. Your corporate culture is inspiring.

Your people encourage each other. There’s shared values. There’s trust. There is no blame. You focus on opportunities instead of problems. Your employees are energized. Everyone has fun at work. Diversity is celebrated. Failures are acceptable because that means people are learning. Everyone has confidence in you — and your systems.

4. There’s no bureaucracy.

Your company doesn’t let bureaucratic organizational structures drag you down like most corporations. You’re transparent. There are no boundaries between management and staff. You’re quick at making decisions. You have proven systems but your tools and systems encourage creative thinking.

5. Your people have initiative.

Your employees are empowered. They are motivated and encouraged. Your people feel their contributions make a difference. You engage everyone in the organization effectively; people work cooperatively and creatively, they go beyond their job description and they don’t accept ‘OK’ anything.

6. There’s great vertical communication.

You are approachable. You have an open door policy. Your employees understand the big picture and they feel that their contributions are important to reaching the company’s goals. There’s no uncertainty. Your staff knows what you are thinking and planning.

7. There’s no “I” in team.

Everyone loves collaboration and they are committed to the team. Your teams are small – and small means they can be agile enough to respond to challenges and sensitive enough to give a damn. You have a shared reward system in place and the shared and worthwhile goals strengthen your team. They want to play as a team and you facilitate their growth.

8. There’s great idea management.

You encourage idea manufacturing. You encourage the cross-pollination of ideas. There’s creativity and ideas (good & bad) always being shared. No-one pretends to “know-it-all” nor has a “not my problem” attitude. You have strong knowledge management strategies and systems in place. Everyone asks a lot of questions and enjoys discovery. You’re curious about everything, most importantly your customers. You strive to understand what makes them tick, you understand their goals and dreams, and you try to think of new ideas to help take them there.

The Gloves Are Off!

Or are they? Only time will tell.

If you haven’t already heard, this week spells the start to what could be one of the biggest shake-ups to the Internet since its creation over 30 years ago.

As of Thursday, January 12, 2012, professionals on behalf of an established corporation, organization, or institution (but not as an individual or a sole proprietorship), have until April 12, 2012 to register almost any word they like (including brands) as a domain name.

This is known as a gTLD (generic Top-Level Domain).

Why is the new gTLD offering so important?

This is important because it will likely change the way people find information online and how businesses plan and structure their online presence, according to ICAAN, the global Internet body behind the change.

Brand and marketing managers for major brands and communities need to be aware that companies and organizations with competing names—even if they are in unrelated industries, can own your biggest asset…your name.

“Time is short,” chief executive Rod Beckstrom said in a recent blog post. “If you have not done so, now is the time to get expert advice and get your marketing people engaged to take advantage of new opportunities.”

He added that even those brands and entrepreneurs who do not plan to apply for a gTLD need to be vigilant, or at least be aware of the program’s built-in trademark protections.

“If you do not choose to apply,” Beckstrom said, “you should still pay attention to those who do, and use the protections built into the program to safeguard your brand or community.”

To this end, and once all the applied-for strings have been posted for public viewing, businesses will have the opportunity in May of this year to object to any which they feel would infringe their legal rights.

Ninety US-based industry associations have opposed the change, as have 40 leading corporations -including Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson, claiming that the introduction of gTLDs will harm brand owners, confuse consumers and expose them to more internet fraud and cyber attacks.

Cost

You gotta pay to play. Available for (gulp) $185,000 each, the offering of gTLDs — whether it’s .canada, .alberta, .edmonton, .oilers, or .nike, will visibly expand the existing pool of 22 web address suffixes, such as .com and .ca.

Resources

If you are interested in the application and evaluation process, this video is a must-watch, as it distills a 180-page application document into 26-minutes.

Other resources can be found on ICANN’s gTLD website at newgtlds.icann.org

Naming Your Company (Part 2)

Last month we looked at some of the difficulties in finding the perfect name for your company. Today we’re looking at what strategies the world’s biggest, most well-known brands have used to find theirs. Perhaps their approach can teach you something.

What are the different approaches to naming?

There are many schools of thought as to what makes a great name. Some say it must describe your business category precisely; some say it should describe a feature, benefit, or unique differentiation; while others say it should require no explanation at all.

Different companies use different methods, all with varying levels of success. There isn’t one solution that works best for everyone. If it was that easy you’d be lounging on the beach enjoying the fruits of your brilliant name instead of reading this post.

For the purpose of creating your company’s name, a few naming strategies need to be considered.

1. Descriptive

Do you want your name to define a key attribute of your company? If so, then a descriptive name like Speedy Auto Glass or Quality Inn might be a fit.

Do you want it to be blatantly obvious to your customers what it is that you do? Companies like Toys ‘R’ Us, Burger King, and Internet Explorer all used this strategy.

2. Hybrid

There’s also the hybrid approach. Companies like Grey Goose, Red Bull, and FireFox all used the hybrid method to come up with some pretty unique names.

3. Evocative

If you consider yourself to be the creative type, maybe you’ll want to try designing an evocative name? For example Yahoo, Virgin and Crunch! used suggestive words to convey their business.

4. Coined

Or if you are feeling up to it, perhaps you can create a name you coin or invent yourself? Names like Viagra, Verizon, Kodak and Xerox come to mind.

5. Metaphorical

Finally there’s the metaphorical or analogical approach. Names like Amazon and Safari are unique and stand out in any crowd.

Companies like Apple, Blackberry, Saturn and Target all used random objects with positive connotations to describe their business. Is your company a beacon of hope in a industry known for shady dealings? Maybe an approach like this will work for you.

For the complete list of naming strategies, download Urban Jungle’s Naming Worksheet.

So you’ve decided you’re a ‘metaphor-kind-of-person’ and you’ve come up with a few solid contenders. Are you done?

Nope. Not even close.

The next exercise in analyzing the name of your company, is looking at a few of its characteristics. The following is a short list of some things that should be taken into consideration:

1. Is the name easy to remember?

2. Does the name roll off the tongue?

3. Is the name 1-4 syllables long?

4. Does the name contain strong consonants?

For the complete list of evaluation criteria, check out What’s in a Great Brand Name? or download the Urban Jungle Name Evaluation Tool.

If after all of this you still have a name to work with, you’re almost done. You’ve found the perfect name, so run with it and run quick! Hire a trademarking and copyright lawyer to seal the deal for you before anyone else snaps it up.

Good luck!

Anyone Can Play Drums

Grab those two little sticks. Sit down and get comfortable behind those shiny round thingies, and start tapping the sticks on the white flat parts of the round thingies. See? You’re playing the drums! Woot woot!!

You can also fill your cavities, or prescribe your medicine, or rebuild your car’s engine.

You can name your company, create your brand strategy, design your brand identity, write your brand messaging, and create all of your marketing and communication tools. Yes, you can play the drums.

Or you can hire a rockstar like John Bonham. Your call.

Naming Your Company (Part 1)

Naming your company is pretty easy stuff.

Ya right! If you have ever started a new business, you’ll know that finding the perfect name for your company is also arguably one of the most torturous aspects. Getting the right name is unbelievably important. Why? Well, let’s think about what’s at stake.

First of all, you have to get everyone of the company’s key stakeholders to agree on a name, which is usually easier said than done. Decisions by committee rarely turn out well. Ideally you need one person entrusted with making the tough decisions, but that is a whole other topic all together.

Let’s say for the purpose of this article that a group decision is your only option and somehow you miraculously agreed on the name; this is where the real fun starts.

  1. Your name needs to somehow embody what your company is all about.
  2. It needs to somehow fit with the product or service you offer and perhaps indicate the level at which you offer it.
  3. It needs to work with the image you want to convey and hint at what your brand stands for.
  4. It needs to convey what your message is and what industry you are in.
  5. It may also indicate where you are from, your background, your beliefs, your influences, and in some situations—even your dreams and aspirations.

So in other words, your name has to convey everything your company is and hopes to ever be—all in a couple syllables. And until your company becomes famous, you’ll use this name to convey all this information to complete strangers in a very crowded market place.

Then from a marketing point of view, your name has to lend itself to succinct communications and clean graphic design. We all know how important image is—it’s everything!

The following are some companies that clearly failed at the name game.

Finally, your name has to be unique. One company per name per industry. If someone else already has dibs on the name that you chose, too bad for you. Either start back at square one or use the name and risk legal action.

So finding the right name for your company is one of the most difficult exercises you and your business partners will ever tackle, but it has to be done before you start doing whatever it is that you hope to do so well.

This is where history can be helpful. Millions of companies, (all with names) have come before you. Is there something we can learn from their approach that can help you in your dilemma over nomenclature?

We’ll find out later soon!

7 Habits of Highly Effective Brands (Redux)

The following is a post I wrote in 2008. I feel it’s important to share it again, because the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Over the years we’ve been challenged quite a bit on brand. “I don’t believe in this branding crap…vision, mission, values…it’s all fluff!”

The comment is all too common. The ironic thing is after viewing most of our clients’ visions, missions and positioning statements, they’re right. The statements are chalk full of “marketing” fluff. It’s as though everyone downloaded the same statements off the internet.

For those who feel vision/mission/position/values are fluff, they are absolutely right. If they don’t believe in their brand and in the promise their brand is to deliver, then why would their employees? Why would their customers?

On the other hand, for those who agree brand is a relationship guided by mission, differentiated by position, and driven by value—then wouldn’t they agree it’s critically important to understand what practices assist in the process?

Brand creates and secures future earnings by growing customer preference and loyalty in the present.

Yes it’s true brand is an intangible asset, and as such it’s perceived to be more difficult to gauge ROI; however, if the ultimate goal is to engage happy customers and develop ongoing business, brand is actually quite easy to measure when you think about it. If revenue isn’t trending upward then you are probably doing a shitty job at effectively communicating and delivering the value of your brand.

What is it about today’s most effective brands that puts them so far above their competition?

What can you learn to implement in your business that will enable you to set yourself apart from your competition?

Digging deep in the Urban Jungle vaults, I found 7 key practices employed by leading brands. In doing so, they are able to drive considerable ROI from their branding investment.

1. They continuously meet and often exceed customer expectations.

Highly effective brands deliver value and they provide high quality products or services designed with the customer in mind (imagine that!). Their ultimate goal is to make their customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable. Ideally, the brand fulfills a previously unmet need, which requires focus and investment in innovation. Apple and RIM are adherents to this practice. Both are relentlessly focused on putting the next great tool in the hands of their customers.

2. They rigorously remain relevant.

Highly effective brands ensure their ongoing relevance within their defined audiences. This involves rigorous segmentation to understand what are the most financially attractive segments and who is apt to be a brand evangelist and spread the word. This requires the brand to tailor its message to these segments with a compelling “value proposition.” Therefore execution is key and messaging must be more creative in order to cut through the current communication clutter.

3. They price impeccably.

Highly effective brands are able to price their products/services in a way that captures their customers’ attention and their perception of value. Of course, companies invest in brand in order to achieve a premium over similar offers, which remains a key objective. In order to accomplish this, leading brands make a direct link between price and the intangible benefits of communicating exclusivity in order to justify the premium.

BMW is a perfect example of effective brand pricing. The brand is linked to “performance” and as a result, loyal BMW customers perceive differential value versus competing offers.

4. They are flexible.

Current practice involves how to approach brand consistency. Traditionally it is thought a brand must be 100% consistent in communication and execution in order to achieve broad recognition. We disagree. Highly effective brands are more flexible in their communications approach than their competitors.

At Urban Jungle we like to refer to this as the “70/30 Rule” whereby the brand is consistent in large part but allows for customization to address language, culture, buying behaviour, and communication channels.

Ten years ago every single McDonald’s restaurant would largely have had the same retail design. Now, there is much more flexibility in format. As an example, in Paris the locations are more café-like with a wide coffee menu and chairs, which are not bolted to the floor. In Tokyo, the menu includes shrimp burgers. In Quebec they have Poutine.

5. They are extremely proactive.

It may sound cliché but the most effective brands never rest, nor do they allow the market or the competition to define who they are, what they believe, and what makes them consistently
unique. Instead they employ best practices to ensure their ongoing leadership.

6. They have accurate self perception.

Highly effective brands ensure all employees, prior to making any claims in the market, understand the brand promise. It is, after all, the employee’s responsibility to deliver on the promise. In many average to less than average companies, employees are the last to know, or learn about their own brand strategy through external advertising at the same time as prospective customers.

Progressive companies on the other hand use brand as their central organizing principle in order to guide employee decision and action, providing rules about what is “on-brand” and what is “off-brand.” These companies review employee performance against the brand strategy and values tying results to compensation and other rewards.

7. They manage brand as a long-term asset.

Highly effective brands continuously measure the drivers of brand value and make management decisions based on performance within those metrics. They clearly recognize brands are not merely logos or tag lines or short-term advertising campaigns. Rather, they are fundamental drivers of the company’s economic performance. Though employed by significant global players, these practices are applicable to all brands regardless of size, industry, and reach; and can help management unlock further potential for mind-, market-, and wallet-share.

Tools and channels will come and go, but brand will always be relevant.

Cherish Your Identity

Too often we hear statements like, “It’s just a logo,” or “Logo’s aren’t that important—people put too much emphasis on them.” When an identity is belittled to the point of being called a logo, this is true. And for these people, that’s all it will ever be (poor them). However, if an identity is truly cherished, nothing could be more untrue.
Imagine a newspaper, choc full of information, headlines, facts, stories, and pictures. Now imagine as you turn to page B8 of the Business Section. Your attention is stolen—only for a fraction of a second. There is a little pink icon in an ad at the bottom right hand corner of the page. It’s the Pink Ribbon of the Breast Cancer Society.

Consider the power this icon has even though it entered your mind only for a millisecond. This little pink ribbon represents so much. Pain. Passion. Perseverance.

Nothing out there cuts through everyday clutter like a simple, well designed icon.

Great identities trigger memory and your heart is irrefutably attached to your memory.

Lovemarks (Redux)

“Lovemarks” is a marketing term coined a few years ago by Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. Roberts intended for the term to replace the idea of brands as he claimed, “Brands are running out of juice.”

Personally I think Roberts it’s just trying to sell books by putting a new spin on the word brand. I completely disagree with him that brands are running out of juice; however, I do agree that the term “brand” has become watered down and misunderstood.

Really what Roberts is talking about is the emotional side of branding. Once a company has developed their brand strategy and they have put forth a vision, mission, and values that inspire, it’s time to activate the brand through the company’s people. In order for a company to become a brand they need customers to fall in love with them. Love isn’t marketing “fluff.” Love is what’s needed to elevate a company to a brand.

If you are interested in building loyalty among your customers beyond what is considered “reasonable,” the following are key emotional ingredients to elevating your company’s status to that of a brand:

Mystery: Tell great stories. Exercise your past, present and future. Tap into dreams, myths and icons. Inspire your staff and your customers.

Sensuality: Sound, sight, smell, touch, and taste. Excite the senses. We are sensual beings making emotional decisions. Tantalize the 5 senses and you will win.

Intimacy: Commitment, empathy, and passion. Show your customers you are an intimate person/company, and they’ll show you love back.

The difference between a product, fad, and brand is simple.

The following schema of emotion is based on respect and love.

Mere products (commodities) command neither respect nor love. Think salt.

Fads attract love, but without respect this love is just a passing infatuation. Furby anyone?

Brands on the other hand command both respect and love. BMW. Grey Goose. Apple. These are brands and they’ve achieved brand status by binding the holy trinity of emotion: mystery, sensuality, and intimacy.